CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH, F&V CONSUMPTION AND THE POWER OF EU POLICY TO PROMOTE BOTH
Despite dramatic progress in tackling premature deaths from heart disease and stroke in recent decades, cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains a leading cause of death and ill-health in the European Union (EU) – accounting for 1.8 million deaths every year (3.9 million deaths in the WHO European region)1.
At a population level, dietary factors are by far the largest of all the behaviour-related risk factors that contribute to CVD. These risk factors – including, notably, low intake of fruit and vegetables – are responsible for 49% of all the years lost to cardiovascular death or disability (men and women combined) in the EU2. CVD is not only costly in terms of human loss and suffering, it is also estimated to cost the EU economy € 210 billion per year.
The European Heart Network (EHN) has estimated that if fruit and vegetable intake in the EU(25) increased to 400g/person/day there would be about 50 000 fewer deaths from heart disease and stroke3; if the intake increased to 600g/person/day, 130 000 fewer deaths from heart disease and stroke could be achieved4. The three articles in this special newsletter for the 2018 EGEA Conference set out why policy action to increase consumption of fruit and vegetables is needed to combat Europe’s major disease burden.